Pimento Cheese, Please
You can dress up or down this ‘duct tape of party foods’By Brandpoint
One of the South’s best-kept secrets for years, pimento cheese is catching on with the rest of the country. It’s popping up on modern menus and turning up in gourmet stores across the country.
Traditional pimento cheese is pretty simple: Grated cheese (preferably the sharpest cheddar you can find), diced pimentos and mayonnaise. That’s it.
However, there’s still room for debate on those three basic ingredients: How coarse to grate the cheese, what kind of mayonnaise and whether it’s OK to substitute roasted red peppers for the pimentos. Additions like hot sauce, cayenne pepper, paprika or cream cheese can all cause arguments.
Kathleen Purvis, North Carolina-based food writer and author of two “Savor the South” cookbooks, calls pimento cheese “the duct tape of party foods.”
“You can nuke it, spread it, mix it with something else or slap it on a tray surrounded by crackers,” Kathleen says.
Folks who are experimenting with it in contemporary kitchens are finding that there really are endless things you can do with it. For example, stir it into hot pasta for a shortcut macaroni and cheese, stir it into cornbread batter before baking, and put it between two flour tortillas to make fast quesadillas. Or try these easy ideas:
- Hot cheese dip: To make a southern twist on queso, just bake or microwave a small bowl of pimento cheese. If you want something more substantial, stir in cooked black-eyed peas first.
- On a biscuit: Try spicy pimento cheese on a warm biscuit. Bojangles’, the chicken and biscuits chain, recently debuted pimento cheese on its Cajun filet biscuit.
- Fried bites: Take an idea from a popular bar snack. Roll very thick pimento cheese into balls, coat them in flour, then beaten egg and finally in Japanese-style panko crumbs. Freeze them before dropping them in hot oil, so they don’t fall apart before the outside browns.
- P.C. deviled eggs: Beat the cooked egg yolks with pimento cheese, then pipe it into cooked egg-white halves. Garnish with a small slice of pickled jalapeño if you want.
- Instant appetizer: Fill frozen phyllo cups with a dab of pepper jelly, top with pimento cheese and bake just until bubbly.
- Grilled cheese: If you want to elevate a simple hot sandwich, use pimento cheese instead of sliced cheese. If you really want to make it special, spread a little raspberry jam or pepper jelly on the bread before you add the pimento cheese. Yum!
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